As an employee with a recognized disability, you have the right not only to a work environment that is free from unlawful harassment and discrimination, but also have a right to reasonable accommodations that will allow you to perform your job duties. An individual who is regarded as disabled, because he or she had a disability in the past, or may become disabled in the future, is also entitled to such protection.
Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) an employer with five or more employees is required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees and applicants who have a known mental or physical disability unless such accommodations would cause undue hardship on the employer. California Government Code §12940 (m)
Pursuant to FEHA, the employer has an affirmative duty to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities or perceived disabilities. The employer is under an obligation to communicate directly with the employee in an interactive process to determine reasonable accommodations that would permit the employee to perform his or her job. It is unlawful for an employer to fail to engage in a timely, good faith interactive process. California Government Code §12940 (n)
While the FEHA provides examples of ways in which an employer may provide reasonable accommodations to a disabled employee, the list is not exhaustive, and the possibilities of what may be deemed reasonable in a particular circumstance may be quite broad. It is through the interactive process that the employer and employee explore what accommodations may be available depending upon the particular restrictions or limitations of the disabled employee. Reasonable accommodations may include making facilities accessible, job restructuring, offering part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquiring or modifying equipment or devices, adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials or policies, providing qualified readers or interpreters.
In some instances, a leave of absence for a definite period of time, may be a reasonable accommodation, particularly for an employee with a temporary or intermittent disability. For example, an employee who requires medical leave beyond the 12 weeks afforded under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) may be able to extend that leave by requesting a reasonable accommodation for a definite additional period of time.
An employee with a disability should advise the employer of the disability and the desire to engage in an interactive process to determine what reasonable accommodations may exist. Although not required, it is strongly recommended that the disabled employee make this request in writing. The employee may also suggest possible accommodations to the employer. If there are multiple reasonable accommodations available for the disabled employee, the employer has the ultimate discretion to select which accommodation to offer the employee and may choose a less expensive or easier option. However, in most instance, an employer will have to demonstrate undue hardship before refusing, what appears otherwise to be a reasonable accommodation.
If you have a question about disability accommodations in the workplace or you believe you have been subjected to disability discrimination by your employer in Orange County, Riverside County, Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County, please contact Stevens & McMillan at (800) 738-3353 for a free consultation. This article has only touched on the general scope of the law and is for information purposes only. This article is not intended to give legal advice.